How to reset an iPhone that you don’t have the password for

An iPhone laying on a MacBook keyboard. Its screen shows the Apple logo with a half-filled progress bar underneath it.
  • You can reset an iPhone, even without the password, by putting it into “recovery mode” or erasing it via Find My.
  • If you don’t know what an iPhone’s password is or it’s been disabled, you’ll have to reset it to use it.
  • Once you’ve reset your iPhone, you can use an iCloud backup to restore its data.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

iPhones are notoriously difficult to break into. If you have a unique passcode set up, it’s almost impossible for someone to get in without your permission.

But this also works the other way around. If you need to open an iPhone but don’t have the password, or it’s disabled, the only way to unlock it is to factory reset it.

Luckily, there are two ways to reset an iPhone without using its password.

How to reset an iPhone using Finder or iTunes

Firstly, you can use a computer. If you’ve got a Mac you’ll be using Finder, and if you’ve got a PC you’ll be using iTunes (which you need to download first).

1. Turn the iPhone off. The exact way to do this will depend on what kind of iPhone you have:

iPhone model How to turn off
iPhone 12s, iPhone 11s, iPhone X/XR/XS, iPhone 8s, and iPhone SE (second generation) Press and hold the Lock and Volume Down buttons until the power slider appears on screen, then swipe it.
iPhone SE (first generation), iPhone 7 Plus, and earlier Press and hold the Lock button until the power slider appears on screen, then swipe it.

2. Once your iPhone is off, plug it into your computer and put it into recovery mode. To do this, you’ll need to press a certain combination of buttons:

iPhone model Buttons to press for recovery mode
iPhone 12s, iPhone 11s, iPhone X/XR/XS, iPhone 8s, and iPhone SE (second generation) Press and release Volume Up, then press and release Volume Down, then press and hold the Lock button.
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Press and hold the Lock and Volume Down buttons.
iPhone SE (first generation), iPhone 6S, and earlier Press and hold the Lock and Home buttons.

3. Keep holding the button(s) until the recovery mode screen appears. It’ll have a picture of a laptop with a charging cable.

4. Once ready, open Finder or iTunes and open the iPhone menu. If you’re using Finder, click your iPhone’s name in the left sidebar. In iTunes, click the iPhone icon in the upper-left corner.

5. You’ll be shown a message saying that the iPhone has a “problem” and needs to be updated or restored. Select Restore.

A menu on a Mac explaining that the connected iPhone has encountered a problem, and needs to be updated or restored. The 'Restore' option is highlighted.
Restore the iPhone, don’t update it. William Antonelli/Insider

6. Keep your iPhone connected to the computer as it resets and restores the iPhone. This could take up to 20 minutes, so be patient.

Once the process finishes, turn your iPhone on and set it up like a new device. When you’re asked if you’d like to restore data from a backup, feel free to sign into iCloud and do so.

How to reset an iPhone using Find My

If you have an Apple ID account, your iPhone is probably connected to Find My, Apple’s global device tracking network. This service also lets you reset and erase your iPhone without having the password for it.

1. On a computer, go to iCloud’s website and log into your account.

2. In the main menu, click Find iPhone.

The iCloud website's main menu, with the Find iPhone option highlighted.
Open the Find My menu. Apple; William Antonelli/Insider

3. You’ll be given a map of all your devices. Click All Devices at the top and then select your iPhone.

4. In the pop-up menu that appears, click Erase iPhone, and then confirm your choice.

A map of southern New York state, displayed on Apple's Find My website. In the corner, a small menu of options is displayed. The 'Erase iPhone' option is highlighted.
Select your iPhone, then erase it from the menu. Apple; William Antonelli/Insider

As long as your iPhone is on and connected to the internet, it’ll be reset immediately.

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